I decided to run for a charity as I felt that would keep me motivated and then pretty much forgot about it for the rest of the year, apart from it being one of those annoying thoughts that sit at the back of your mind like wondering if you locked the front door when you're on the plane going on holiday!
My training started to kick in for the marathon in December and I carefully escalated my miles week on week as I really didn't want a repeat of my 6 week injury in the previous summer. I saved my longest runs (2 x 22 milers) for solo runs on hilly courses as I wanted these runs to not only be about the miles but to allow me to draw on them mentally when I hit the dreaded "WALL".
Speaking to numerous fellow Hedgies about marathon debuts, the common theme was the "WALL". I've walked into plenty of walls whilst drunk and it hurts so the last thing I wanted to do was hit one whilst running. I based my training and race plan around avoiding the wall, I wanted to finish strong and have that as my main memory of the day
On race day the weather was absolutely perfect! There was the usual mixture of nerves, muted excitement and long queues for the loos. I had had a terrible night's sleep thanks to my wingman, Mark Staples (the well known insomniac), snoring all night, but I was feeling confident in my race day plan, which was:
1. Enjoy it
2. Finish strong
3. Run a negative split
4. Run it in a sub 4 hour time
During mile one I realised one of my bottles had a hole in it and I was getting a steady trickle of High Five Zero down my leg. Bottle dumped I was a bit nervous about having half my water supply gone so quickly, but I was more worried about the slow pace for the first couple of miles due to congestion.
From mile three we were able to pick up our pace, and for the next 11 miles we slowly clawed back the time whilst drinking in the stunning scenery and the amazing supporters, especially fellow Hedgies whose support was incredible through-out the whole race (and after!). At the half way point we were 2 minutes over my goal pace, but I wasn't worried as I was feeling strong and I knew that we could slowly keep increasing our pace.
I lost my wingman at around mile 17, he told me to push on. I felt a bit guilty but I was feeling strong and I knew that a sub 4 hour time was still on, so I pushed on without too much drama for the next 6 miles, all the time increasing my pace bit by bit. Then I entered the "twilight zone" of mile 23...
I had never ran so far before, and I could feel my legs getting weaker and my head getting lighter. All I kept telling myself was "don't waste the effort of the last 23 miles" and "you've only got a park run to go". Luckily the crowds (who were absolutely amazing through-out) were so good for the last 3 miles that I felt like a racing superstar.
At mile 25 I started to feel a bit faint but a cup of water over my head solved that and then I was into the final mile. I wanted to soak up the atmosphere, the crowds roaring at the finish line and the glory of crossing the line strong but as soon as I saw the finish line in the distance it was all I could do to hold back the tears.
Crossing the line was an amazing feeling and I knew I had done it, the distance, the pace, the negative splits and the strong finish. It was the perfect race, and that's when the tears came.